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Thread: Encouraging a stubborn bunny to eat more hay!

  1. #1

    Default Encouraging a stubborn bunny to eat more hay!

    Hi there! I was just looking for some advice regarding my rabbit, Chappy!

    She's just about to hit the big second birthday - one thing that does concern me with her; is from the moment I brought her home she's never really been keen on hay or grass. I don't think the breeder every supplied her with hay, bless her - but she's been out on the grass most days since she's been home with me; and shows little interest in that, either!

    Currently, Chappy eats about 50g of nuggets per day (she weighs in at just under 2kg, she's a pretty big bunny! But the weight is considered normal by my vet for her size, she's not overweight or anything), has a very limited variety of vegetables (I'm introducing more all the time, but she's a rather...opinionated rabbit and will only eat her favourites) and no matter how hard I try and no matter how many different types of hay I give to her, she just refuses to take it.

    I only give her nuggets in the morning - and operate on if it's gone, it's gone sort of thing, in the attempt to encourage her to eat hay when she gets hungry. She's rather...stubborn,and will literally sit by the nugget bowl until the next morning until she gets the nuggets again! So far, the only way I've managed to get a couple of strand of hay into her mouth is by stuffing a toy with some of her favourite treats and then hiding it all in hay. Chappy figured out this game pretty quickly so now just rips all the hay out!

    I'm just a little concerned, as I know that her digestive system needs hay to keep going and I also know it's vital for her to eat hay to keep her teeth worn down. I take her to be checked out every couple of months and provide her with lots of wooden things she can gnaw on to ensure her teeth don't become overgrown! Even tried pairing her up with my piggies when they're outside in the run and they've tried to show her how good grass is....she's more interested in sunbathing!

    A part of me thinks that if she's gone this long without eating hay and is in good health then maybe just leave her to it, but I wanted to ask you guys! It's completely stumped my specialist vet - there is no physical reason why Chappy can't eat hay, she just...chooses not to! I've tried a massive variety of hay (normal, Timothy, readigrass, dustfreehay....hay with herbs in, hay with dandelions in...) it's a good thing I have my guinea pigs to eat it when she won't!

    I just wondered if any of you guys had any ideas at all? Thank you!

  2. #2
    Warren Veteran joey&boo's Avatar
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    I feel for you. This would stress me out. Have you tried reducing her nuggets (50g is a hefty portion) & most bunnies would opt for nuggets over hay? Another thing she might be agreeable too is wild plants if you're open to foraging. I agree with you that she needs more fibre in her diet. If the forage goes down well you could try drying some & mixing in with the hay. My final cheeky suggestion is a bunny partner - they work in pairs & do everything together - if there is no medical cause to her hay refusal I bet she'd start eating hay when her husbun does

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by joey&boo View Post
    I feel for you. This would stress me out. Have you tried reducing her nuggets (50g is a hefty portion) & most bunnies would opt for nuggets over hay? Another thing she might be agreeable too is wild plants if you're open to foraging. I agree with you that she needs more fibre in her diet. If the forage goes down well you could try drying some & mixing in with the hay. My final cheeky suggestion is a bunny partner - they work in pairs & do everything together - if there is no medical cause to her hay refusal I bet she'd start eating hay when her husbun does
    As she's a pretty big bunny, myself and the vet both think that we've reduced her nuggets as far as we can go - she's actually becoming a little on the thin side for being stubborn and refusing to eat anything else but nuggets, most days! She's so fussy, she won't even eat carrot or cucumber! I recently made the switch from Pets at Home nuggets to Burgess Excel - that took 2 months and 3 hunger strikes! Now she won't stop eating the stuff

    We've got a limited back garden space, but we have tried foraging with her before - hiding dandelion leaves and the sort and encouraging her to forage and eat some grass - she just won't! She literally runs around, looks at the guinea pigs weirdly as they're eating grass, cuddles the guinea pigs for a minute and then bounces off again to find a suitable place to sunbathe!

    I've also tried the method of hiding her favourite treats inside the hay rack, and mixing it up with some veggies in there, but...she simply just won't take it, or tear the entire thing apart so that she can get to the treats the little ****

    I'd love to get a second one - but sadly, we just don't have the room for two rabbits, especially if it ends up being Chappy's size. Chappy has been neutered so I was considering getting her a dominant male partner to show her how it's done; but me and my family are a little hesitant. We've been struggling with Chappy up until very recently, she got really aggressive towards me and my family all of a sudden at 4 months and it's taken this long in order to break the behaviour. Honestly, it's still only me that can actually get anywhere near her to feed, clean or even touch her. Only thing I can't do is her nails, but she's off to the vets for another teeth check and to get her talons chopped very soon! Despite her aggression I absolutely adore my Chappy to bits, she's gotten a lot better. I can't seem to attach the video, but for the first time yesterday, she actually lay down and fell asleep while I was petting her.

    I'm still trying to push for another rabbit but sadly, as I still live with my parents I have to obey their rules and what not :P But when I get my own place I'll certainly be looking at getting her a friend to show her how it's done! I was considering pairing her with the guinea pigs - she absolutely adores them, cuddles up to them on grass time and is super gentle, but I'm well aware of the risks involved - putting them together in the same hutch is something I just don't trust. I was to trust Chappy, but I also know just how powerful her kicks can be! I'm working on a second but parents aren't too keen on the idea - Chappy was our first rabbit and I think they're a little put off with how aggressive she was -you couldn't even put your hand in to feed her without her taking a chunk out of your hand! All it took was a little time and lots of patience, but I can understand why they don't want a second brought in, but I'm working on it

  4. #4
    Warren Veteran daphnephoebe's Avatar
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    I'm sorry if I've missed it but I'd try a variety pack from the hay experts.
    They sell a handful of 6 different types for 4.99 which may help you find a favourite.

    You could also email the people at Timothy hay. Co.uk

    They sent me a free sample and both fussy buns loved it - I'll be ordering a bag once our shed is sorted and we have somewhere to store it.

    Sent from my SM-G903F using Tapatalk

  5. #5
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    I'll be blunt, I don't think you will get her to eat more hay unless you reduce her pellets. Most rabbits prefer pellets to hay and it provides a quick dose of calories for them. They don't need to work hard for them, but unfortunately they then have the rest of the day to become bored. Additionally, as you know, pellets are not so good for teeth or digestion.

    My advice would be to very gradually reduce the pellets, perhaps also splitting the amount into two or three portions. You should be aiming ultimately to feed around an eggcupful per day in total. She obviously won't like it, but she also after a while won't like being hungry either

    You have also mentioned treats. I don't know which treats you are meaning, but I would cut them out completely.

    I would also try again with feeding her forage, such as bramble leaves, dandelions and plantain. I would also cut some fresh grass for her and put it into her feeding bowl,

    I hope you have some success with her. It's really like a child with buns and sweeties. The child would fill up very quickly with the sweet foods and then not want to eat anything else.

  6. #6

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    I can always try splitting her portions! I'm just a little worried abut reducing her portions down anymore, especially if she still won't take to eating the hay, you know? Since she's a pretty big bunny and has been loosing a little bit of weight since she's been having mini hunger strikes, I just don't want it to be dangerous for her - but I do agree she needs more fibre in her diet. after owning guinea pigs for so long I know how important it is for them!

    We've been trying to get her to forage, as well as giving her fresh, cut grass daily - mixing it in with her nuggets bowl in the attempt to get her to take it - and she's really showing little to no interest, even when I've removed her nugget bowl for several hours. She'll literally start snarling at me and banging around her hutch or the garden and start lunging at me for her nugget bowl.

    I should mention - as Chappy is still showing some aggressive tendencies, the treats I mentioned is literally one munching stick every morning for her to have while I take out her food bowl, it's been reducing her ways at attacking me as I'm trying to re-inforce that I don't mean any harm - the idea was to re-inforce that I'm only here to feed her and not hurt her, you know? And if I'm putting some hay into her toy to pull apart, it's one viovet apple and blackcurrant biscuit thing. We've been making sure her weight stays steady while she's been instructed by my vet to loose some weight! She does get a honey stick that hangs from the bars once every two weeks as a sort of enrichment thing.

    I'm absolutely willing to keep trying with her, I understand how important it is for her - I know it's tough love and things, I guess I'm just so worried it will cause her harm if she doesn't take to it, you know? She's currently staring at me as I gave her a small amount of pellets with some bramble leaves and grass on top; currently throwing that all around the hutch to get to the nuggets the absolute little whatsit x3 But thank you for your advice, I appreciate it! I'll keep you updated.

  7. #7
    Warren Scout Limit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ambrer View Post
    I can always try splitting her portions! I'm just a little worried abut reducing her portions down anymore, especially if she still won't take to eating the hay, you know? Since she's a pretty big bunny and has been loosing a little bit of weight since she's been having mini hunger strikes, I just don't want it to be dangerous for her - but I do agree she needs more fibre in her diet. after owning guinea pigs for so long I know how important it is for them!

    We've been trying to get her to forage, as well as giving her fresh, cut grass daily - mixing it in with her nuggets bowl in the attempt to get her to take it - and she's really showing little to no interest, even when I've removed her nugget bowl for several hours. She'll literally start snarling at me and banging around her hutch or the garden and start lunging at me for her nugget bowl.

    I should mention - as Chappy is still showing some aggressive tendencies, the treats I mentioned is literally one munching stick every morning for her to have while I take out her food bowl, it's been reducing her ways at attacking me as I'm trying to re-inforce that I don't mean any harm - the idea was to re-inforce that I'm only here to feed her and not hurt her, you know? And if I'm putting some hay into her toy to pull apart, it's one viovet apple and blackcurrant biscuit thing. We've been making sure her weight stays steady while she's been instructed by my vet to loose some weight! She does get a honey stick that hangs from the bars once every two weeks as a sort of enrichment thing.

    I'm absolutely willing to keep trying with her, I understand how important it is for her - I know it's tough love and things, I guess I'm just so worried it will cause her harm if she doesn't take to it, you know? She's currently staring at me as I gave her a small amount of pellets with some bramble leaves and grass on top; currently throwing that all around the hutch to get to the nuggets the absolute little whatsit x3 But thank you for your advice, I appreciate it! I'll keep you updated.
    Sounds like a right diva! I can understand your worry about reducing when she isn't eating enough hay but like you've said it is tough love - my 4 almost 5 kg lop bun doesn't have as many pellets as yours as she will stop eating enough hay if I give too many. I would cut out those honey sticks, it's like sugar to them haha. Wishing you the best of luck, hopefully you'll have a break through x

  8. #8

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    As well as reducing the amount of pellets you're giving her try changing the way you give them to her. Like Omi mentioned, splitting them into smaller portions, scatter feeding, putting them inside a toilet tube roll/ treat ball - things to make her work harder for them.

    It would also be beneficial to cut out the treats your feeding, unfortunately a lot of treats targeted at rabbits aren't suitable for them. Treat sticks are full of sugar and fats which aren't great for rabbits' digestive systems. They will also fill Chappy up, which won't help when it comes to her eating hay!

    Have you tried serving her hay in different ways, you mentioned a hay rack so maybe try putting a nice pig pile of it for her to indulge in! Most rabbits like to eat and go to the toilet at the same time - is her hay located near her litter area?
    With regards to her aggression, is she spayed? What sort of accommodation is she living in?

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by LagomorphLion View Post
    As well as reducing the amount of pellets you're giving her try changing the way you give them to her. Like Omi mentioned, splitting them into smaller portions, scatter feeding, putting them inside a toilet tube roll/ treat ball - things to make her work harder for them.

    It would also be beneficial to cut out the treats your feeding, unfortunately a lot of treats targeted at rabbits aren't suitable for them. Treat sticks are full of sugar and fats which aren't great for rabbits' digestive systems. They will also fill Chappy up, which won't help when it comes to her eating hay!

    Have you tried serving her hay in different ways, you mentioned a hay rack so maybe try putting a nice pig pile of it for her to indulge in! Most rabbits like to eat and go to the toilet at the same time - is her hay located near her litter area?
    With regards to her aggression, is she spayed? What sort of accommodation is she living in?
    I was wrong about her weight - she's actually 2.8kg! Healthy weight, but sorry about that mistake! My scales weren't showing her true weight!

    I've been doing a little bit of reducing and that's helping considerably! It's still not anywhere near what's she's supposed to be eating, but half a rack of hay per day rather than absolutely nothing at all is a step in the right direction. I've ordered her some samples of all different varieties of hay for her to try out - if she isn't keen, then it goes to the piggies and try again with the new taster bags I've cut out all treats now, too.

    I've tried moving her hay around previously and that didn't help at all - I've bought a second rack and placed it right where she likes to do her business, as well as a pile of hay in the opposite corner to where she does her business. She hasn't touched it yet, but I'll still keep on trying!

    Chappy has been spayed - she was spayed last year, around March. It didn't do much to help with her aggression, but I'm now at the point where I can pick her up (as long as I'm wearing gloves, she still gives me mouth. I've tried a container and letting her hop out of her own accord, but that is a no-go) and stroke her, as well as groom her. Califorian mixed with lionhead means loads of brushing! But she's come to enjoy the sessions and even lies down and goes to sleep! She's still territorial, but she's getting a lot better with her age - she'll be two pretty soon, so I think she's beginning to grow out of it.

    I'm not sure if I'm allowed to post links here, but she's currently hutched. I'd love to have her house trained or a c and c cage but that's impossible as I still live with my parents. I'm pretty sure the hutch we have at the moment is too small for her - she's massively grown - so there are plans to buy her a shed and convert it; so that she has a large inside area. We're also going to make a large run for her and attach it to the shed, so she has a lot of space and can come in and out as she pleases. We're just looking for a suitable shed to come up so we're able to convert it! But the hutch dimensions at the moment is two stories - H112.50 x W152 x D61cm.
    Last edited by Ambrer; 02-05-2017 at 10:03 PM.

  10. #10

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    Still struggling - her hay samples arrived a couple of days ago! Despite serving it to her in all different ways, she's turned her nose up at both Orchard Hay, as well as Readigrass! I'm leaving it there for a day or so in between feeds and reducing her pellets again to keep trying her. Getting ready to pull my hair out!

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